Britain and the United States are willing to believe that the naval officer who committed this aggression was not acting in compliance with any authority from his Government or that if he conceived himself to to so authorized he greatly misunderstood the instructions which he had received.
Earl Russell argues that the United States must be fully aware that the British Government could not allow such an affront to the national honor to pass without full reparation and they are willing to believe that it could not be the deliberate intention of the United States unnecessarily to force into discussion between the two Governments a question of so grave a character and with regard to which the whole British nation would to be sure to entertain such unanimity of feeling.
Earl Russell resting upon the statement and the argument which I have thus recited closes with saying that her Majesty's Government trust that when this matter shall have been brought under the consideration of the Government of the United States it will of its own accord offer to the British Government such redress as alone could satisfy the British nation, namely, the liberation of the four prisoners taken from the Trent and their delivery to your lordship in order that they may again be placed under British protection and a suitable apology for the aggression which has been committed. Earl Russell finally instructs you to propse those terms to me if I should not first offer them on the part of the Government.
This dispatch has been submitted to the President.
The British Government has rightly conjectured what it is now my duty to state that Captain Wilkes in conceiving and executing the proceeding in questin acted upon his own suggestions of duty without any direction or instruction or even foreknowledge of it on the part of this Government. No directions had been given to him or any other naval officer to arrst the four persons named or any of them on the Trent or on any other British vessel or on any other vessel at the place where it occurred or elsewhere. The British Government will justly infer from these facts that the United States not only have had no purpose but even no thought of forcing into discussion the question which has arisen or any other which could affect in any way the sensibilies of the British nation.
It is true that a round shot was fired by the San Jacinto from har pivot gun when the Trent was distantly approaching. But as the facts have been reported to this Government the shot was nevertheless intentionally fired in a direction so obviously divergent from the course of the Trent as to be quite as a blank shot while it should be regarded as a signal.
So also we learn that the Trent was not approaching the San Jacinto slowly when the shell was fired across her bows, but on the contrary the Trent was or seemed to be moving under a full head of steam as if with a purpose to pass the San Jacinto.
We are informed also that the boarding officer (Lieutenant Fairfax) did not board the Trent with a large armed guard, but he left his marines in his boat when he entered the Trent. He stated his instrucions from Captain Wilkes to search for the four persons naed in a respectful and courteous though decided manner, and he asked the captain of the Trent to show his passenger list which was refused. The lieutenant as we are informed did not employ absolute force in transferring the passengers, but he used jsut so much as was necessary to satisfy the parties concerned that refusal or resistance would be unavailing.